Archive for Thursday, June 26, 2008

Council to renew water discussion

The De Soto City Council will have a workshop in the coming weeks on the city's water utility future. One of the topics will be a  possible agreement to purchase water from the city of Olathe. The council is inviting the public to the discussion, which has not yet been scheduled. Look here and in The Explorer for updates.

The De Soto City Council will have a workshop in the coming weeks on the city's water utility future. One of the topics will be a possible agreement to purchase water from the city of Olathe. The council is inviting the public to the discussion, which has not yet been scheduled. Look here and in The Explorer for updates.

June 26, 2008

The De Soto City Council has basic decisions to make about water and is inviting residents into the discussion.

City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle told the council last Thursday the time for a decision on the city's water future was approaching because the city of Olathe and Johnson County Rural Water District No. 6 needed to move ahead with their plans.

The city has three choices in regard to its future water needs, Guilfoyle said. It can continue to produce water at the water plant at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, build a new water plant or enter into an agreement with a larger water producer to purchase water.

In January, after raising water rates for the second time in six months and after concerns about future hikes needed to keep the water department from running in the red because of the expense of operating the aging Sunflower plant, city council members asked that staff further explore a wholesale water purchase agreement with Olathe. City engineer Mike Brungardt had already discussed some details of such an arrangement with Olathe and RWD No. 6.

The city has had numerous workshops on water in the past, including a series in 2006 that coincided with the development of a water utility master plan.

The 2006 master plan explored the city's cost of purchasing water from Olathe, building a new plant or making needed improvements to the Sunflower plant.

It found the cheapest alternative at about $5 million was to purchase the water from Olathe. That estimate included the cost of the line, development fees paid Olathe as a new customer and engineering, legal, permit and inspection fees.

By contrast, the estimated cost in 2006 to construct a new plant was $11.1 million and the cost to renovate the Sunflower plant was $15.1 million.

The study also recommended the city eventually close the Sunflower plant unless a larger customer base could be found. That recommendation was based on the added cost of piping water to and from a treatment plant so far from the city's customer base.

In 2006, the consensus on the council was for the city to continue to produce water for its own use, either at a new plant or at Sunflower, but the workshops ended with the realization the city couldn't afford either option.

At that time, the council shied away from a wholesale purchase arrangement because of the fear short-term savings would vanish once the city became dependent on an outside provider, the available supply during a dry year and because the city would have to continue to operate its distribution system even if water was purchased from another source.

The continuing high cost of operating the Sunflower plant contributed to the renewed interest in a wholesale connection with Olathe.

Another factor was an acknowledgment of the city's limited ability to expand its customer base to pay for a new plant or the expensive renovation of the Sunflower plant. Much of the city's growth area is within RWD No. 6's service area and water district officials have said the district expected to accommodate any growth in those areas. And city council members and staffers concede that Sunflower Redevelopment LLC and RWD No. 6 - entities once thought of as potential customers - would purchase cheaper water from Johnson County Water One or Olathe.

Although the water district is not likely to be a customer of the city, it is interested in sharing the expense with De Soto of installing a wholesale connection line to Olathe.

Guilfoyle said he would share updated cost estimates of the different alternatives at the workshop. As of Tuesday, no date had been set. Look for an update with the date, at the desotoexplorer.com.

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